As I look back over the last 40 years of my life with my precious wife, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the greatest gift my wife ever gave to me, was this:
In spite of all my flaws, all my immaturity, all my weaknesses, all my mistakes, all my shortcomings, all my failings, my quirks, and eccentricities, with her whole heart, she believed in me, she trusted me, and she respected me. It has been the greatest gift anyone has ever given to me. I cannot begin to express how extraordinary of a gift this has been and the tremendous impact on my life.
When Kathy and I got married in 1979, I did not have a dollar to my name. Yes, I had a job, but a very, very, low paying job. The previous year we had been in a terrible car accident. My older car was totaled and I could only afford a $200, 3 speed Oldsmobile, deep maroon with faded speckled paint. She patiently learned as I impatiently taught her to drive a 3-speed stick shift on the column of this old, ugly car.
The day of our wedding we knew we could only go on a “honeymoon” if enough cash was given in cards as wedding gifts. Several hundred were given and a friend loaned me his Datsun B 210 and we drove to Devils Lake, Wisconsin. Not the ideal honeymoon destination. She went with a smile, and joy in her heart. When we stayed in a cheap, roadside motel with knotty pine siding in the room, she trusted my decision.
Time and time again, when I struggled greatly with my impatience, and my harsh, overbearing spirit, and my unkind words, Kathy believed in me, in spite of the hurts, and the fears she had, and the difficulties she faced because of my immaturity, and my selfishness. She stood by me and believed in me.
When I told Kathy in all sincerity that I wanted to be a pastor, that I knew that it was what God wanted me to be, and to serve his people, Kathy did not point out all my obvious flaws, tell me all the reasons it would never happen, and that I was blind and stupid to think that I could possibly become a pastor. No, Kathy believed in me, prayed regularly for me, respected me very much because of my desire, and did everything she could as a wife and mother to help see that desire realized.
When we were 3 months into our marriage and Kathy carrying our first child, I had the brilliant idea that we should apply for a cooks job at a sorority where we would live in a tiny, cinder block, 2 room, brick-walled apartment, in the basement of the sorority, and Kathy and I would cook together and have our first child there in that tiny apartment. Kathy believed in me, trusted my decision, fully supported me and helped me day in and day out in that old kitchen, cooking meals for the 55 people living there.
When the pest control people sprayed the kitchen of the sorority because of cockroaches, and they all scampered downstairs into our apartment and they would crawl over Kathy at night in her sleep, Kathy did not yell and scream at me, and sob uncontrollably, “Why did you bring me to this hell hole? How could you make us and our new daughter live in this wretched apartment?” Of course, she didn’t like the bugs, nor did I, but she handled it, got on with the night or day, and joined me in the kitchen to cook the food, while caring for our brand new baby girl, Celeste!
When after that first year, we decided to leave the sorority and the cooks job behind, and get another apartment, and I attempted to start a business for our survival, Kathy did not belittle me, call me stupid, or make me feel like a fool, she believed in me. When that business venture failed and I was out of work for 3 months, and we lived literally on homemade chicken soup for almost every meal for 3 months, could not afford baby food for our second little child,Jeromy, and we fed them finely, mashed up potatoes, from our Cuisinart food processor, Kathy did not fall apart, she did not shame me, or tell me how miserable I made her life, and she wished she had never married me. She believed in me, trusted me, stood by me, and gave me the confidence to keep going.
When we had to move from our duplex to a home in which we decided to have a couple other people live with us, so our rent was cheaper, Kathy did not tell me how much she hated it and that it was a really stupid idea. Kathy made the very most of the situation and did it with the best she could muster, and joy in her heart, and without a begrudging attitude.
When we realized we could not live in that older home that we had grown to love any longer, and I told Kathy, “I think we will need to look at trailer homes”, I could tell that one was going to be very hard. As I explained why I thought this was the direction we should go, she listened, and through her doubts, she trusted me and believed in me. When a small, approx.600 sq. foot, 2 bedroom trailer was given to me in the most run-down trailer court in town, with windows that wouldn’t open, and a hallway that only one person at a time could walk down, Kathy believed in me, trusted me, and respected my decision, determined to make the most of it. She did not make me feel ashamed that we had to live in such conditions.
When 2 months after we moved in and the water heater broke, and I had no money to replace it, and it couldn’t be repaired, she made the most of it, went to a friends to shower, gave our kids a little bath in the sink using warm water we heated on the stove, and pretended we were “Little House on the Prairie”. She believed in me and stood by me, and never belittled me for it.
When I brought carpet samples home from a dumpster behind my work that a carpet store threw away, and I stapled all those different colored little squares on Jeromy and Celeste’s tiny bedroom floor in the trailer, she celebrated it, and made the most of it, and congratulated me on my wonderful find!
When I had to take a second job and work 75 hour weeks for years, Kathy believed in me, stood behind me, respected me, and thanked me for my hard work. She did not complain that I was leaving her to raise the kids all by herself, or that was I neglecting her and the kids.
When we had our 3rd little child, Jessica, and because we had no health insurance, and we came home from the hospital the same day she was born because we could not afford to stay longer, Kathy respected me, and with a courageous heart, came home with me. That very same night, I had to go back to work at my second job, I had no time off whatsoever from either job, and there she was 2 little kids and a brand new baby, and I was gone.
When on the same night I brought her home from the hospital to the trailer with our new baby, and the guy who lived an arms length out the back bedroom window of our trailer where Kathy and the baby slept, decided that very night that for the next month he would pound, and saw half the night away, every night, remodeling his trailer, making all kinds of noise, Kathy did shout and scream at me, and demand I move us ASAP, or else! Yes, it was very difficult. Yes, it was very emotional for her. Yes, it was very trying. But, she believed in me, did her best to trust God and make the most of a very difficult situation, and she respected me, and endured, trusting God for His amazing grace. She made that little trailer a place of such joy to live. I felt like I was the richest man in the whole wide world.
When the two little kids living next to our trailer, whose parents neglected them terribly, let them run all over with no supervision, or proper clothes to wear, Kathy invited those little kids to our trailer for cookies, and as a result, the trailer got invested with lice, and in our kid’s hair and house. Kathy did not belittle me, or scream, “Why did you bring me to this cesspool, or force us into these miserable conditions because you are such a bad provider Mark!!?” She dealt with it, believed in me, trusted me, respected me, and continued to be a bright light of grace and love to me, our kids and the difficult neighbors we were surrounded by.
When I was finally ordained in December of 1986 and became a pastor and told Kathy that at the end of that very month, I wanted to move to Minneapolis, MN, one of the coldest places on earth, to plant churches, and build a life there reaching people for Jesus Christ, she believed in me, rejoiced with me, trusted me, and enthusiastically supported that desire, with all her heart.
When I came up north over the next 3 weeks to look for housing and scout out the land in this massive city (as compared to Ames, Iowa), and find us a place to live, without her with me, and settled on a place for us to live that she had never seen until we moved in, she believed in me, trusted me, stood by me, and did not belittle me or ridicule me.
When on December 31, 1986, we packed up that moving truck, and our 2 door Chevy Malibu, and $600 dollars to my name from the sale of our trailer house with nothing but the promises of God, and a promise of one year support from the Ames church of approx. $18,000 dollars, she believed in me, got behind me, trusted me, had faith in me, and moved up here, not knowing what lay ahead of us, only that we loved Jesus Christ, and wanted to serve Him, and others.
It has been 32 years now since we moved to the Twin Cities. God eventually gave us another precious son, Micah, our 4th child. We raised our kids here, saw them through college, planted multiple churches, walked through the most excruciating trials and difficulties of our lives here.
Kathy and I have been through things that we thought would kill us. I mean that seriously. We thought some of the things God allowed in our lives, or things others did to us, would literally crush us to death under the weight of sorrow, pain, grief, injustice, and loss. This woman, this queen of a woman, has continued through it all, to believe in me, trust me, cheer me on, and respect me, despite my times of great discouragement, or brokenness of heart.
I have watched so many women over the years tear their husbands down, shame them, belittle them, emasculate them with their cruel words, their unreasonable demands, and the way they bully and humiliate their husbands. I have seen them drive him into the ground, making him feel like he can never do anything right, to please her or make her happy.
Ladies, the impact you have on your husband is either the greatest blessing in his life or the greatest curse. As Proverbs 12:4 says, “A worthy wife is her husband’s joy and crown; the other kind corrodes his strength and tears down everything he does.”
You might ask yourself, “Well, has Kathy ever argued with you?” Yes, she has. “Has Kathy ever corrected you?” Yes, she has.” Has Kathy been perfect all times?” No, she hasn’t. “Has Kathy ever lost her patience in you?” Yes, she has. She is human, just like anyone else. However, the totality of her life with me, her consistent attitude and spirit over 40 years of marriage, has been without a doubt the greatest blessing in my life. She believes in me, trusts me, respects me, and she is the greatest earthly blessing in my life. She is my joy and crown and she did not corrode my strength, but she gave me strength.
There have been so many times Kathy could have complained or bemoaned our horrific circumstances. There have been so many times Kathy could have called me incompetent. There are so many times Kathy could have spoken ill of me or belittled me to others, but she didn’t. Kathy’s gentleness, Kathy’s belief in me, helped in a tremendous way to make me who I am today. I owe her a debt I can never repay. She will forever have all my love and devotion.
I would like to leave you with a song, I hope you and your wife will listen to it together. It was done years ago by Kenny Rogers, and it exemplifies the woman my wife has been and is still today. It is called “She believes in me”. Please watch and listen, it still brings great tears to my eyes today.